Empire State Building
Michel Porro  /  Getty Images file
Constructed within 14 months, the 102-story Empire State Building was completed in May 1931.
Special to msnbc.com
updated 5/5/2006 1:42:40 PM ET 2006-05-05T17:42:40

I can say with scrupulous objectivity that my home town New York City is the most action-packed city on earth boasting literally hundreds of museums and galleries, historic sights, bars, great restaurants, nightclubs, shows and much more. With just a day, of course, you can only scratch the surface of all there is to do. But with the following 24-hour itinerary, you should be able to take a small chompof The Big Apple and see what it’s all about.

Grab The New York Times and a table at Norma's , where the traditional American diner has gotten a Manhattan makeover. Breakfast, served all day, includes pancakes with bananas and macadamia nuts, foie gras with sweet potato hash, and omelets with lobster and asparagus. Even the oatmeal is over the top – or rather, sautéed red and green apples and a sweet brûléed crust come atop the oatmeal.

9:00-11:30 AM
Make your way down to the tip of Manhattan andhop one of the frequent ferries headed for Liberty Island, where the Statue of Liberty stands, and Ellis Island , where some 12 million European immigrants (including my grandmother) stood on U.S. soil for the first time. If you plan well in advance, you can snag a ticket for a tour of the statue’s innards, but you’re better off appreciating Lady Liberty from afar and staying on the ferry until you reach Ellis Island. Once the gateway to the New World, a place where new immigrants underwent rigorous and sometimes frightening tests before being allowed into the “New World”, it’s now the Ellis Island Immigration Museum . Of all of the attractions, be sure to see the “Treasures From Home” exhibit, where more than 1,000 personal belongings carried from the Old World to the New put very human faces on the “teeming masses yearning to breathe free.”

Debark the ferry at Battery Park and make the short walk through the windy canyons of the Financial District to Ground Zero . Visitors to New York City tend to be surprised by the vastness of this gray, immeasurably empty space where the World Trade Center fell on September 11. The center’s twin towers weren’t the tallest buildings on earth at the time, but they did contain the greatest amount of office space – about 12 million square feet. On any given day 50,000 people worked there, and another 70,000 visited on business, to shop, or to marvel at the view from the observation deck. The timing of the attack was one of the precious few blessings of the day – nearly 3,000 people died, but had the attack occurred an hour later, thousands more would have perished. You can pay your respects at the gate that surrounds the site and read more about 9/11 and the Twin Towers on signs surrounding the site.

Stroll across the East River on the Brooklyn Bridge , a dazzling feat of 19th century engineeringthat’s still one of the most beautiful bridges anywhere. The views of Manhattan on one side of the span and Brooklyn on the other are superb. Start in Manhattan, amble along the wide boardwalk above the traffic, and catch the subway back.

is packed with great eateries, and one of the greatest – in fact, one of the greatest in this great city of great eateries – is Great New York Noodletown , an absolutely unpretentious place with creaky chairs, high-school-cafeteria lighting, and roasted ducks hanging from hooks in the front window. The joys of Noodletown are no secret, and you may have to wait for a seat (they don’t take resos). But trust me, it’s worth it. Try the delicate sautéed pea shoots, the salt-baked squid, and some of that roast duck you passed on the way in.

2:30 PM-5PM
Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art , where the breadth of the collection runs from the caveman to the contemporary, and includes everything in between. When approaching an art museum that’s a quarter of a mile long and filled with three-million things to see, you need a game plan. One strategy is to take the hour-long “Highlights” tour, free with admission and offered five times a day.Of all the must-see sites in the city, The Met is the one you really, really must see.

Ifyou’ve already done the Met, why not stay downtown and visit the richest spot on earth? An hour-long tour of the Reserve takes you 80 feet into the bedrock of Manhattan to see the vault where $100,000 billion in goldbrick – a quarter of the world’s gold reserves – is stored. This mind-boggling heap of precious yellow metal is guarded by an army of marksmen, who keep in top form with an onsite shooting range. Be aware: reservations for the tour are required five days in advance.

Celebrity chef Bobby Flay learned a few things while on the road filming FoodNation, and he’s brought some of them to Midtown Manhattan in a place he’s named Bar Americain . The atmosphere may be hoity toity French bistro, but the cuisine is purely American regional, from the Florida-style red snapper, to the Creole-style duck, to the Fulton Fish Market cioppino. Be sure to try Bobby’s house potato chips, served with a small tureen of blue cheese dipping sauce.

After dinner, catch a show on Broadway . You can find out what’s playing, spare yourself a wait in the ticket line, and get considerable discounts at the following online sites: www.playbill.com/, www.theatermania.com, www.broadwaybox.com.

For hot jazz check the happenings at the Time Warner Center, home of the city’s premiere shopping mall, where there’s a kind of jazz multiplex called Jazz at Lincoln Center . Wynton Marsalis oversees this enormous three-theater-and-one-jazz-museum operation, and does his best to give it an informal vibe.

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Head for the top of the Empire State Building and take an exhilarating ganderat the pulsating, glittering lights of the city. Try sticking your head through the suicide prevention fence and looking down (if you dare) at the ever-moving currents of tiny yellow cabs, 102 stories below. A $35 “Express Ticket” puts you at the front of the line and on the Observation Deck in 20 minutes flat.

Head for the Meat Packing District and go clubbing. If you can put up with “the beautiful people” and the good chance of getting snubbed by a doorman, try PM Lounge , one of the city’s more intimate and exclusive clubs. The Haitian owners have given it an authentic Caribbean vibe, but the beats driving the heroin-thin models across the rosewood dance floor are of the hip-hop, house and Top-40 varieties. If the doorman keeps you waiting more than 15 minutes to get in, give it up – you ain’t gettin’ in.

For a more democratic experience, try Club Cielo where house music lives and the crowd cuts loose with sweaty abandon on a sunken dance floor. With an open-door policy on Mondays (Deep Space Night) and Wednesdays (Roots Night), you can avoid the potential indignities of the velvet rope altogether.

For commercial hip hop, Top 40 and salsa, hit The 40/40 Club . This is hip hop artist and impresario Jay Z’s bling-blingy sports-bar-slash-dance-club, which he’s tricked out with armchairs suspended from the ceiling, flat-screen TVs tuned to ESPN, Play Station IIs, X-Boxes, pool tables, private rooms and a smoke-filled cigar lounge. This a fascinating and perfectly comfortable club where you can sink into a white Italian-leather sofa, swirl a cognac, and enjoy the crowd, a happy mix of races and ages.

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommer Guidebooks which will be debuting in bookstores this July.

152 West 52nd St., in the stylish Le Parker Meridien Hotel(Uptown but not Uptight); 212/265-9700; www.parkermeridien.com/normas.htm.

866/STATUE4 or 212/269-5755; www.nps.gov/stli.

Open daily 8:30am–6:15pm; ferry fees: $11.50 adults; www.nps.gov/elis.

The fathomless space between Church, Barclay, Liberty and West streets; http://www.nycvisit.com/.

Enter on Centre Street in lower Manhattan.

To get back across the river to Manhattan take the A train at Cadman Plaza/High Street in Brooklyn Heights.

28 Bowery at Bayard Street.; 212/349-0923; open daily 9am–4am.

1000 Fifth Ave., between 80th and 84th streets.; 212/536-7710; open Tuesday–Thursday and Sunday 9:30am–5:30pm, Friday–Saturday 9:30am–9pm; suggested donation $15 adults; www.met.org.

152 West 52nd St.; 212/265-9700; reservations recommended.

Most Broadway theaters are in the area around Times Square from 42nd Street to 50th, East to Sixth Ave and West to Eighth Avenue. There are evening shows seven days a week, though many theaters are dark Sunday and Monday nights.

Broadway at 60th St.; 212/721-6500; www.jazzatlincolncenter.org.

350 Fifth Ave., at 34th St.; 212/736-3100; $16 adults, $15 seniors and kids 12–17, $11 under 12, free to military in uniform; open daily 9am–midnight; www.cieloclub.com. Purchase tickets online to save time.

50 Gansevoort St.; 212/255.6676; www.pmloungenyc.com.

18 Little West 12th St.; 212/645-5700; closed Tuesday and Sunday; www.cieloclub.com.

40/40 CLUB
6 West 25th St; 212/832-4040; www.the4040club.com.

33 Liberty Street; 212/720-5000; free; tours offered Monday-Friday 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 1:30 pm and 2:30 pm; www.ny.frb.org.

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommer Guidebooks which will be debuting in bookstores this July.

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